The Best Picture Race In Review: The 1970s


Ah, the 70s. The decade started with the collapse of the studio system and the rise of the so-called movie brats. For the first half of the decade, Hollywood was producing the type of challenging films on which they would never again be willing to take the risk. The 70s were indeed a second cinematic golden age, full of anti-heroes and dark endings. Then, in 1977, Star Wars changed all of that and ushered in the era of the blockbuster. The 1970s gave the world disco, The Godfather, and some of the best Oscar winners ever.

1970

Airport

Five Easy Pieces

Love Story

M*A*S*H*

Patton

Won: Patton

Should Have Won: I know that there are people who love Patton. I’ve never been able to sit through the whole film, despite the obvious power of George C. Scott’s lead performance. Airport is dull when compared to other disaster films and Love Story will leave you actively rooting for either divorce or death. Of the nominated films, M*A*S*H and Five Easy Pieces are the strongest. Both are flawed, of course. M*A*S*H is frequently misogynistic but, at the same time, it’s still one of the most effective anti-war films I’ve ever seen. (The scene where blood suddenly spurts out of a wounded soldier’s neck still shocks me.) Five Easy Pieces features a great performance by Jack Nicholson but, far too often, it doesn’t play fair by making everyone around him a caricature. In the end, my vote goes to M*A*S*H.

1971

A Clockwork Orange

Fiddler on the Roof

The French Connection

The Last Picture Show

Nicholas and Alexandra

Won: The French Connection

Should Have Won: With the exception of that nomination for Nicholas and Alexandra, this was a strong year and I can make a case for each other four remaining nominees. I love The Last Picture Show but, a few years ago, I saw a showing of The French Connection at the Alamo Drafthouse and it still wowed me, even though I knew everything that was coming. In this case, I agree with the Academy. The French Connection deserved its victory.

1972

Cabaret

Deliverance

The Emigrants

The Godfather

Sounder

Won: The Godfather

Should Have Won: The Godfather. No question.

1973

American Graffiti

Cries and Whispers

The Exorcist

The Sting

A Touch of Class

Won: The String

Should Have Won: Every time I watch The Sting, I discover that it’s actually better than I remembered. American Graffiti is another personal favorite of mine. That said, I’m a Catholic girl who loves horror movies so there’s no way I’m not picking The Exorcist here.

1974

Chinatown

The Conversation

The Godfather, Part II

Lenny

The Towering Inferno

Won: The Godfather, Part II

Should Have Won: Sorry, Chinatown. You’re great but The Godfather Part II cannot be denied.

1975

Barry Lyndon

Dog Day Afternoon

Jaws

Nashville

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Won: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

Should Have Won: This is a great lineup of nominees, with all five deserving a nomination and deserving to win as well. As for which film would get my vote, my mind says Nashville but my heart says Jaws. In this case, I’ll go with my heart.

1976

All The President’s Men

Bound for Glory

Network

Rocky

Taxi Driver

Won: Rocky

Should Have Won: This one is difficult for me. For me, the race comes down to All The President’s Men, Network, and Taxi Driver. (I no longer feel as negatively about Rocky as I once did but I still feel like it shouldn’t have been nominated for Best Picture, much less won.) In the end, my love of horror films leads me to vote for Taxi Driver. So, even if I am taking away Rocky’s victory, I’m still voting for a film where an inarticulate man gets a job working for Joe Spinell.

1977

Annie Hall

The Goodbye Girl

Julia

Star Wars

The Turning Point

Won: Annie Hall

Should Have Won: Annie Hall. Yeah, I know everyone’s pretending like they never liked any of Woody Allen’s films now. Annie Hall is still a charming bittersweet comedy.

1978

Coming Home

The Deer Hunter

Heaven Can Wait

Midnight Express

An Unmarried Woman

Won: The Deer Hunter

Should Have Won: This is a year in which all of the nominees were flawed. An Unmarried Woman gets my vote, despite the fact that the film has its share of “It’s so tough being rich” moments.

1979

All that Jazz

Apocalypse Now

Breaking Away

Kramer Vs. Kramer

Norma Rae

Won: Kramer vs. Kramer

Should Have Won: Ugh, I can’t stand Kramer vs. Kramer. Beloved by some, this is a film that makes me want to throw a shoe at the screen whenever I see it. (It’s that smug little smile that Dustin Hoffman gets on his face while talking to Jane Alexander that pushes me to my breaking point.) Though I love Breaking Away, All That Jazz is the film that gets my vote.

Up next, in about an hour, the 80s!

One response to “The Best Picture Race In Review: The 1970s

  1. Pingback: Lisa’s Week In Review: 4/19/21 — 4/25/21 | Through the Shattered Lens

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